Just Wear White

If you read my blog often, you’ll have seen Antonia Mariconda’s name pop up on more than one occasion. A veritable beauty guru, she has been a great inspiration, mentor and friend to me as my blog has grown. So when she announced that she was throwing a super-chic, glamorous beauty industry party, I knew I had to go along. My ticket arrived with one simple instruction: just wear white.

Having tried on and rejected approximately a million dresses that basically disappeared against my pale skin, salvation arrived in the form of this gorgeous Chi Chi London number.

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I felt prettier than Hilary Duff when that spotlight shines on her in A Cinderella story.

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That’s right, I felt give-you-four-pictures-of-my-face level sassy. Having made up my mind to go full Disney princess on this one, I paired glowy skin and fluttery eyelashes with a glossy purple lip and topped it off with Cinderella heels and earrings that would make Blair Waldorf proud.

When I got on the bus (I know, the glamour never ends with me), someone asked me if I’d lost my pumpkin, so I’m gonna chalk that up as a major success.

I arrived at the sumptuous Home House to a genuinely jaw dropping sight. The room was white, filled with glinting crystal and white roses gently dropping their petals to the floor. There was champagne everywhere. And everyone, but everyone, was wearing white. The gorgeous Nadia Roberts, who I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more about very soon, looked around and commented that she felt like she was surrounded by angels.

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I’ve written before about feeling like an outsider, and this fabulous occasion unfortunately also bore witness to one of the most utterly mortifying moments of my life. At the very front of the room was a wall of photographers, snapping the guests as they entered. Having grabbed the girls I knew and established that we all looked completely excellent, we decided to go get a photograph taken. We strutted up in front of the photographers, struck our best poses and…nothing. Not a thing except muffled silence and bored gazes. Not even one sympathy click to make us feel better. We must have stood there, smiles frozen on our faces for about 15 seconds before it started to dawn on us that no one was going to take our picture. It was like all your worst high-school nightmares come true. Grabbing a glass of champagne and satisfying myself with visions of someday taking Pretty Woman-esque revenge (You remember when you wouldn’t take my picture? Big mistake. Huge.), we fell about laughing and decided to take our own. Because sometimes this world is like climbing a ladder, and while we might have been nobodies in the room, we were still in the room. And I know that some day, we’re going to be the somebodies.

*hair flick, sashay*

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Fortunately, this was the only blip in a truly wonderful night. After hitting the bar to soothe our bruised egos, we hit the dancefloor and soon after, the photobooth.

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We had a few quick words of thanks from the inspiring Tulsi, representing the Katie Piper Foundation, which was the beneficiary of the night’s fundraising. This was followed by the most upmarket raffle I’ve ever seen and a quickfire auction, which raised about £5000 in the space of ten minutes. We danced the night away, but as the clock struck midnight, I started to consider taking on another Cinderella trait…she might have had to act as a servant, but at least the girl got to take off her party shoes.

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As with everything that Antonia does, the White Party was a glittering success, sparkling with elegance, style and fun. What started as a throwaway comment on her Facebook grew into something truly special. And I’m sure she’s already plotting next year’s encore.

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Me and the woman herself.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond: How To Be Your Own PR, with Antonia Mariconda

I stepped down the stairs at the Soho Hotel to the now familiar sound of heels clacking, cameras clicking and new connections being made. This was the third of Antonia Mariconda’s workshops that I’ve been to, and as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Antonia is an award winning media professional and safety in beauty campaigner, who began her interest in beauty after significant reconstructive surgery following a car accident. She took this tragedy and turned it into a wildly successful career.

Basically, this is a woman who knows how to grab life by the balls.

And this workshop was all about how we can learn to do that too. How to find our inner sparkle and make it shine bright enough that everyone else can see.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopWe settled in with the usual gorgeous breakfast spread and exciting goody bags…just what I need at ten on a Saturday morning!

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop

Armed with my notepad, a cup of tea and a whole lot of ambition, I couldn’t wait for Antonia to get started. On seeing Antonia for the first time, I couldn’t help expecting a certain personality to follow. I expected her to be fluffy. To be ditzy. To be shallow. I literally could not have been more wrong if I tried. You don’t get where this woman is without having some serious steel in there. She is determined, she’s smart and she point blank refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. Her criticisms and anecdotes are blunt and sometimes brutal, but cushioned in the genuine warmth of someone who truly wants to see you succeed. She’s a woman who lifts others up, who wants to share her knowledge and help others achieve what she has. She’s also brilliantly relatable, quipping throughout the presentation about the beads dropping off her skirt, and handling an impromptu Rihanna outburst with typical grace and aplomb.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop

Seriously, why this room is called the Indigo Room, I will never understand.

The presentation lasted for three hours, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. If you want to know all the secrets, get yourself booked onto her next workshop. But since I love you all very much, I’ll share just a few of the gems (see what I did there?):

1. You have to know who you are.

Sounds obvious, I know. And yet, when Antonia picked on workshop attendees and asked them to pitch themselves in one sentence, most struggled. And when she asked for the two words that they’d write under our names on TV shows, we struggled even more. When I worked in marketing, I had product pitches that described our service in 250 words, 100 words, 140 characters, one sentence and a tagline. I prepared pitches from lengthy investor presentations to 60 second elevator pitches. I knew it inside out. So why should it be any different when you’re marketing yourself?

2. You have to know who you’re talking to.

Again, seems obvious. But it’s so important to know your audience. It affects everything from the visuals you use, to your tone, to how you choose to communicate.

3. You have to know what you want to say.

Everything that you do in the public domain is PR. Every tweet, every comment, every picture is PR, and it all comes together to create people’s image of you. So make sure that you know what you want that image to be. Make sure you know what message you want to put out there.

4. You have to believe that you are awesome.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t believe you’re awesome, why should anyone else? You have to be your own absolute number one cheerleader, and not be ashamed to shout your achievements from the rooftops. I’m Fiona. I’ve been published in a number of online and print media sources. I single handedly ran a marketing department for a year, at the age of 22. I’m a pretty talented writer. I once starred in a national media campaign with Cancer Research UK. Let’s have a brag off! Leave your best brags in the comments, or tweet me. Be your own champion. Back yourself.

5. You have to put yourself out there.

This is an old cliche, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But like so many, it’s a cliche for a reason. Pitch a story to the Huffington Post. Ring up ITV and ask if they need an expert to go on This Morning. Don’t keep yourself small because it feels more comfortable. You’d be surprised how much you can blag with a bit of confidence. Believe that you’re important, take the risk of putting yourself out there, and you bet that people will believe right along with you. Fake it til you make it, and you will. Okay, that’s enough cliches for one bullet point.

The advice that Antonia gives is like gold dust, and I always leave her workshops feeling ready to take on the world. But actually, I haven’t touched on the most amazing element of the workshops, for me at least.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopSix months ago, none of these women knew each other. And on the surface of it, we don’t really have much in common. In this group, we have mums, bloggers, scientists, business owners, make up artists, aestheticians and more. We are scattered from all over the country. And each of us are at a different stage in our stories and our careers. But Antonia’s workshops seem to attract a certain type of woman. Strong, ambitious, warm, going to Antonia’s workshops and connecting with these women on Twitter and in real life, I have surrounded myself with a network of women who want to see each other succeed. All of us have different areas of expertise, and we use them to build each other up. They inspire me every single day, and I feel very lucky to have a support group like this in my life. Not to mention that they’re mean craic over a bottle of wine.

Despite my insistence on Twitter, Antonia isn’t a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wave her magic wand and make your life better. She does something much more important. She shows you that you are the one holding the power, the magic is inside you, and it’s been there the whole time just waiting to be unleashed. Go forth and sparkle, fellow fairies. Yes, even you guys.

Twitter for Success With Antonia Mariconda*

Having worked in social media for a year, I consider myself to be pretty Twitter savvy. I know my #ffs from my #tbt, and I’ve got retweeting totally down. I also know a little bit about how to build a following and what kind of content to be posting.

But I have got nothing, NOTHING on Miss Antonia Mariconda.

(I hope you all have I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston stuck in your head now, because I certainly do.)

I met Antonia at her Build A Beauty Blog workshop last month and she was lovely enough to ask me to come review her Twitter for Success workshop.

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Note to self: learn how to pose to avoid enormous moonface.

Stop licking your screens, I’m not giving you her mobile number.

Say what you like about Antonia (although it better be nice or I’ll fight you), but she puts on one heck of a spread.

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I arrived at half past nine to a table laden with baked goods, colourful fruit and delicious raw juices. Take note everyone, feed me and I might get out of bed for you too. The room quickly filled up with people and chatter, everyone excited to hear the holy grail of social media marketing revealed.

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The workshop soon got underway and the three hours absolutely flew past. Ranging from hilarious anecdotes to tips that we could immediately put into practise, Antonia’s presentation was a whirlwind tour of everything you ever needed to know about Twitter. We found out how to grow an audience, how to post 100 tweets a day, why you should never get involved in Twitter mudslinging and so, so much more. Despite having a massively diverse audience in terms of Twitter experience and ability, she catered to every single one of us and managed not to alienate anyone. Whether you were trying to get your head around retweeting or trying to get more engagement from your ten thousand followers, her advice was relevant, useful and instantly implementable. Sadly, this was Antonia’s last workshop of the year, but a little bird told me that she has very exciting plans for the New Year and I’m hoping to be learning more from her again soon.

*Mushy music*

On a personal level, I am so, so grateful that somebody as successful as Antonia is taking the time to care about a little startup blog like mine, just because she likes the way I write. She knew a huge number of the workshop attendees by name, greeted all of us like old friends and repeatedly stressed how happy she was to offer help and be used as a resource. Technical wizard Mark and PR guru Jenny were equally awesome and forthcoming, and Mark has been extremely lovely despite receiving an email from me regarding self hosting that essentially amounted to “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING OH GOD HELP ME”. Instead of casually issuing a restraining order, he has taken the time to help. Seriously, the world needs more people like that and I feel really lucky to have met them.

Just like the last workshop, I left feeling excited, energised and with a to do list as long as my arm. If you get the chance to see Antonia speak, please, please do go along. It’s not even an exaggeration to say that in two workshops, she might have changed my life.

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Have you been to one of Antonia’s workshops? Who inspires your blogging? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was gifted a ticket to this event for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!

Build-A-Beauty-Blog Workshop, With Antonia Mariconda*

Today, I went to my first ever blogger event.

*Humorous sound effect of cherry being popped*

I put on my best beauty blogger outfit, packed my notepad and my grown up girl lipstick in my bag, and headed for the Soho hotel.

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Apologies for the blurry photo – my mirror is dusty because I am a sham of an adult.

I arrived at the very chic Soho hotel, tucked away behind the hum of Oxford Street and was directed to the Indigo room. The Indigo room was basically the pinkest room I’ve ever been in, but I’ll forgive it since it boasted the snazziest wallpaper in the world.

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Get a load of that. The room was buzzing with beauty bloggers and industry professionals, all here to learn how to build a successful beauty blog from a serious beauty heavyweight.

I picked a table, and somehow, in a room of 40 people, in the middle of London, managed to pick a seat next to a fellow Glasgow girl. We chatted and got to know the other ladies at our table, all while tucking into some lovely breakfast goody bags.

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The bag contained loads of yummy snacks, and I wasted no time in scoffing a white chocolate and macadamia Clif Bar and a carton of pineapple coconut water. That’s right, I got to drink coconut water and pretend like I was fancy. Will let you know if I wake up looking like Beyonce tomorrow.

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I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the texture of coconut water, and I have to say, I kind of see what they mean. It’s almost oily in texture, but it tasted pretty good, plus, you know, Beyonce.

Then our host, the lovely, lovely Antonia Mariconda took to the stage, and spent the next 3 hours explaining, inspiring and giggling with us. With the help of tech wizard (official job title), Mark Bugg and freelance PR Jenny Pabila, Antonia took us through the basics of building a successful beauty blog from the ground up.

Confession time: I had a preconceived idea of what Antonia was going to be like. Despite absolutely adoring beauty products, spending far too much time reading beauty blogs and being a staunch lipstick feminist, I still had a harmless, but undeniably prejudiced idea of what she would be all about. And she absolutely blew me out of the water. By talking about her own experiences, as well as those of some inspirational women in the room, she reminded me that blogging is about growth and inspiration, about your journey through the world, and that sometimes, something as simple as a beauty product can turn everything around. She was so much more than the glossy, superficial beauty queen I had expected. And she reminded me that beauty and blogging can both be good for the soul. Yes, I got mushy. I went there. Deal with it.

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Mark doing his thang.

The trio covered every stage of blogging, from knowing when you’re ready to blog, to using WordPress correctly, from developing your voice, to managing your relationships with brands and companies. Antonia cut in with anecdotes of the things that she had done right, as well as things she had done very, very wrong. She was brilliantly, hilariously candid, and wasn’t afraid in the slightest to use herself as a bad example. The presentation managed to contain tips that were as relevant for bloggers just starting out, like me, as they were to bloggers with 5,000 followers who were looking to take it to the next level. All three speakers were warm, funny and I totally wanted to take all of them for a pint afterwards. I learned some amazing tips, but more than that, I left feeling like I could take on the world. I felt like everything was out there, just waiting for me to reach out and grab it. I wanted to write. I felt…oh god, I don’t even want to say it but there’s no other word…empowered.

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To save this post from being approximately 4000 words long, I decided to chop it up into sumptuous little bites that you can peruse at your leisure. Stay tuned for the next post, what you all really wanted to know…what was in the goody bags (Part 1)(Part 2)?

What’s the best blogger event you guys have ever been to? Who gave you career changing advice? What inspires you to blog? Chat with me in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was given a complimentary ticket to this event for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!